When it comes to new model launches, they don’t really get more vital than the all-new 2017 Volkswagen Tiguan.
It looks completely different to how it used to: it’s bigger in nearly every direction, it has new underpinnings and drivetrains, and it has stepped up a level in terms of pricing and equipment, too. But is it any better than it used to be?
We attended the launch of the 2017 VW Tiguan to find out, by sampling the new model across its various trim levels.
The all-new Volkswagen Tiguan ushers in a new styling language for the brand’s SUV range – it is boxier, more muscular and while from some angles it looks like a miniature version of the Touareg, it’s much sharper in its entirety.
More important than its looks, though, is the fact the new Tiguan is more spacious inside. The previous model was always short on space compared to its rivals, particularly in the boot area.
But that’s not the case anymore. The boot is now capable of swallowing 520 litres of stuff, where it used to hold just 395L.
And while the boot is now a lot bigger, it can expand even further thanks to a sliding second row seat that allows up to 615 litres of luggage storage, which VW claims is the best in class. If you flip these seats down, you’ve got 1655L – huge.
Not only is the boot significantly more usable, the back seat is vastly improved for space, too. There’s a great deal more room in the second row outboard seats, and ISOFIX child seat attachment points are fitted for those with little ones.
Then you have the other smart bits: in the higher-spec models, the flip-up tables like those you get on a plane are pretty cool, and speaking of cool you’ve also got rear air vents, including temperature controls in the mid-spec model and up. There’s a huge ceiling-mounted drop-down storage box between the front seats, too.
The cockpit is so much nicer up front, now - the old Tiguan was around for ages, and its dash design really left a lot to be desired.
With the new model, though, there’s a stunning change: the big digital instrument cluster is easily the most modern of any SUV in this class, and there’s a huge media screen with touch controls, too.
The requisite connectivity is accounted for, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto phone connectivity standard, as well as Bluetooth. Some models have sat-nav (Comfortline and above), but all models have a rear-view camera.
Storage has been completely rethought up front, too, with plenty of little storage areas and a pair of funny little cup holders that pop out. Neat.
There are big door pockets that are flocked, which is great for stopping things from rattling around but not so good if you’re a snacker – expect chips and chocolate to a bit of a pain.
The specification you choose will determine the trim you get inside, and also the inclusions you get. And if you get any version with the 4Motion all-wheel drive system, you have a rotary dial selector for different drive modes.
The base model Tiguan Trendline has front-wheel drive with a smaller petrol engine, but if you like the spec of the Comfortline model there’s a diesel version too. You can get the most powerful petrol and diesel engines it the top-spec Highline versions.
If you go for the base model Trendline – from $31,990 plus on-road costs for the manual or $34,490 for the DSG – you still get 17-inch alloy wheels, LED tail-lights, city emergency braking with forward collision warning, high speed autonomous braking, lane-keeping assistance, front and rear parking sensors, a multi-mode rear-view camera, auto headlights, rain-sensing wipers, and that 8.0-inch media screen. There’s no dodgy plastic wheel on the base model, either: it gets a leather-wrapped tiller.
Step up to the mid-spec Comfortline (from $36,990 FWD; AWD from $41,490 to $42,990 depending on engine) and you get satellite navigation, a stunning digital instrument cluster, front fog-lights, storage draws under the seats, a luggage net for the boot, tri-zone climate control, and roof-mounted storage boxes.
And in the top-spec Highline ($48,490 petrol - arriving early 2017; $49,990 diesel) you get LED headlights, 18-inch alloy wheels, power tailgate, leather seat trim, heated seats, electric driver’s seat adjustment and more. And based on the impressions we got at the launch, the high-spec models – with their non-halogen headlights and larger wheels – certainly have more appeal.
So, in the mid-spec Comfortline model you get cloth trim and the seats are manually adjustable, while the dearer Highline models get leather trim, and the lower-spec Trendline version has a cloth trim that’s not as classy. Further, the low- and mid-range models have a key, where Highline variants get push-button start.
No matter which model you buy, you get seven airbags (dual front, front side, full-length curtain and driver's knee protection), tyre pressure monitoring, lane keeping assistance, semi-automated parking and a driver fatigue monitor.
So, which cars did we actually drive at the launch? We started off in the top-spec diesel Highline R-Line, jumped to the base model petrol Trendline, and had some time in a Comfortline, too. Sounds like a lot of lines, right? We'll work our way back from the top.
The R-Line pack is only available with the petrol and diesel Highline variants at a cost of $4000, and it adds an eye-catching R-Line body kit, R-Line interior trim with embroidered logos on the seats and grey piping alongside the black leather, black headlining, stunning 20-inch alloy wheels, adaptive chassis control and progressive steering.
It is, without doubt, the choice for buyers who want the most dynamically capable and also remarkably comfortable Tiguan model out there. Despite riding atop 20-inch rims with low profile rubber, the adaptive dampers remarkably managed to iron out pockmarks and small potholes in the road surface during our drive in the Byron hinterland.
The steering, too, is more precise and accurate than the lower-spec versions, with the progressive system designed to offer more response from less input. It is linear and nicely weighted in comfort and normal drive modes, but can be a little too resistant in sport mode.
Those dampers make a massive difference when you're dealing with rough surfaces. On dirt the Tiguan was quite malleable and playful, slipping enough to allow you to think the R-Line bit held some form of close relationship to WRC, but also controlling itself nicely in the off-road mode. Choosing that mode adjusts the way the car's ABS and traction control react, as well as its shifts and throttle response.
Because the 162TSI engine isn't on sale yet, we had to make do with the 140TDI, a 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel unit with 140kW of power (at 3500-4000rpm) and a healthy 400Nm of torque (from 1900-3300rpm). It has a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic and all-wheel drive, and there are paddles if you want to take matters into your own hands.
The drivetrain was good, with just a little bit of lag low in the rev range and some hesitation from a standstill, as we've come to expect from vehicles equipped with this type of transmission. It revved quite freely for a diesel, operating best between 2000-3000rpm, with smooth gearshifts at speed.
One thing we'll say about the trim of the Highline R-Line - which is a $50K-plus offering - is that it's pretty cheeky to still ask buyers to spend more money for a sunroof. If you buy a high-spec Hyundai you get a glass roof as standard.
From there we stepped into the base model Trendline 110TSI. It's powered by a 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol four-cylinder engine with 110kW of power (at 5000-6000rpm) and 250Nm of torque (from 1500-3500rpm). It can be had with a manual transmission for $31,990, but we had the $34,490 auto model with the seven-speed DSG. All Trendline models are front-wheel drive.
That model - the cheapest auto in the range - certainly doesn't feel it from the inside. Sure, the cloth trim isn't stunning, but the seats are ultra comfortable and supportive, and the interior finishes and presentation are top notch.
The engine isn't underdone, either. The little 1.4-litre turbo has more torque than the old 1.4 twincharged (supercharged and turbocharged) powertrain in the previous base-model Tiguan, and it offers good response on the move, decent take-off prowess, and smooth gearshifts.
The new base car is about 65kg lighter than the previous one, too, and as a result it feels more nimble on the road despite being larger in almost all directions. It steers with more alacrity, rides nicely, and sits flat through corners, too. And even on damp roads, we didn't notice any wheelspin under acceleration (that'll appease the 50 per cent of buyers in the medium SUV market that choose FWD models).
The Comfortline model comes with either a detuned diesel or a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine, with 132kW of power (from 3900-6000rpm) and 320Nm of torque (from 1500-3940rpm). This one has a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox with paddleshifters.
The engine is strong, with excellent response down low in the rev range, even with four adults on board. The DSG does exhibit a little bit of lag at low speeds, but it's not as bad as some of the previous-generation versions. The gearshifts are pretty snappy, but there are no paddle-shifters in this spec. The Sport driving mode makes it even speedier in terms of its throttle response, but the steering - again - gets to a point where it's just a bit silly in terms of the resistance.
Thankfully there's an individual mode to allow you to tailor different aspects of the drive experience, but you can't adjust the suspension in this model. That said, the ride is generally good, a little firm but nicely composed. It can be a tad clumsy at the front-end over really sharp bumps at speed, but maybe just slow down a little before tackling those speed humps.
One thing we were unsure of in the Comfortline was the specification of the car. It has a key that you have to turn rather than a smart key with a button, it has manual seat adjustment and cloth seat trim, and those halogen headlights hardly scream "premium for the people", which is what VW is saying the new Tiguan is...
What about ownership? The Tiguan has a six-year capped-price servicing campaign, with maintenance due every 12 months or 15,000km - prices are yet to be revealed. All VW models have a three-year, unlimited kilometre warranty.
The all new Tiguan is definitely better than the old one, and it could well be the best medium SUV in this segment. The base model is extremely impressive, and so is the Highline when equipped with the R-Line pack. So if you're spending mid-thirties or near-fifties, you're catered for. As for the Comfortline? You'll have to wait to see how it stacks up in our upcoming comparison.